by Kristen Wright, senior editor
In a weakened economy with few companies hiring, 1 million U.S. veterans are unemployed. Their figurative light at the end of the tunnel could come by way of the literal, however, through a pilot program called Troops to Energy Jobs.
Accepting the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award in 2008 for Dominion are Chairman, President and CEO Tom Farrell, at center, and, from left, Eric Jones, Mike Monfalcone, Donald Thomas, Bev Robinson and George Newsome. Photo by Doug Buerlein.
“A jobless rate of 30 percent for veterans is a disgrace, and we need to be doing more about this,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman, president and CEO of Dominion Resources and chairman of the Edison Electric Institute.
Farrell’s figure is rounded up, but not much. Male veterans 18-24 years old have an unemployment rate of 26.9 percent, according to a May report on veterans’ labor force needs by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee chairman’s staff. The report cites the government’s unpublished Current Population Survey tables from April. It further states that veterans who served on active duty since 9/11 have the highest unemployment rate among all veterans.
The numbers demonstrate an opportunity for a natural symbiosis between unemployed veterans and a utility industry that’s facing its own work force dilemma, Farrell said.
“We have 200,000 jobs coming that we need to fill, and I’d like to fill them with the military,” he said.
Utility industry jobs demand a high work ethic–the same culture that exists in the military, Farrell said. And veterans, he said, are team-oriented, safety-conscious, community service-conscious and technically oriented.
“Focusing on the military kind of grew up here at Dominion, but others have been enthusiastically interested,” Farrell said. Dominion employs some 1,200 veterans in 14 states.
In 2008, Dominion won the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the government’s highest recognition given to employers for their support of employees in the National Guard and Reserve (see photo).
These days, Dominion is one of five investor-owned electric companies participating in a two-year pilot called Troops to Energy Jobs. The companies are working to develop an industry blueprint to fast track returning military veterans into utility jobs nationwide by offering them special job skills training, interview coaching and college credits. The other companies are American Electric Power, Pinnacle West/Arizona Public Service, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Southern Co.
The initiative is managed by the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD), which was developed in 2006 to help utilities develop solutions for their future work force shortage. The nonprofit is a consortium of electric, natural gas and nuclear utilities, EEI, the American Gas Association, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO.
The recruitment period for the pilot at Dominion is underway, said Matt Kellam, a former amphibious assault crew chief in the Marine Corps Reserve turned supervisor of strategic staffing at Dominion. Kellam and his team will continue building relationships with four-year universities, colleges and military bases in effort to place veterans into jobs at Dominion, he said. The first postings were up in early September.
“The beauty of this program is it will actually support various types of veterans,” he said.
Awaiting veterans who particpate in the Troops to Energy Jobs pilot include positions such as engineers, technicians, line workers, plant operators, pipefitters and nuclear security officers, Kellam said.
Farrell said part of the pilot will be discovering the best way to get Troops to Energy Jobs information to veterans. For now, that’s through the website, he said.
Troops to Energy Jobs website: http://troopstoenergyjobs.com